ROME – Renowned Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci, the master behind acclaimed films such as “Last Tango in Paris” and “The Little Emperor,” has died in Rome at the age of 77, his publicist and an actor who were close to him said on Monday.
Bertolucci was born in Parma (northern Italy) on March 16, 1941, and became a ground-breaking filmmaker who also delved into a variety of other mediums including poetry, scriptwriting and production, and was widely considered the last great master of Italian cinema.
“We are heartbroken for the passing of one of the greatest filmmakers Bernardo Bertolucci. We express our deepest sympathy and condolences to his family, to people that love and care for him,” a social media linked to Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves said.
“Keanu Reeves said about Bernardo ‘He changed my life,’ we want to remember this endless bond,” the statement added. Reeves first met the Italian director while filming “Little Buddha” in 1993.
Before delving into film, Bertolucci was a published and celebrated author by the tender age of 20, taking after his father, who was also a poet; however, after a stint as assistant director to Pier Paolo Paolini in 1960, he abandoned his career as a writer to fully embrace the world of film.
Bertolucci launched his cinematographic career alongside other Italian greats including Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni during a golden age for Italian cinema.
The director and scriptwriter was quick to make a name for himself through his work which was, at times, deemed too provocative and even resulted in a punishment from the Italian government that deprived him of his most basic civil liberties – including the right to vote – because the nudes featured in “Last Tango in Paris” (1972) starring Marlon Brando were thought to be obscene.
Bertolucci’s work often made many references to cinema classics and well-known artistic movements and presented a rich visual aesthetic that drew the viewer in with beautiful detail, elaborate camera movements and long enigmatic scenes that had a bewitching quality to them.
In 1987, he won the best director Oscar for his largest production up until then “The Last Emperor,” catapulting him into the spotlight and making him a household name.
“The Last Emperor” won a total of nine Oscars.
Bertolucci’s publicist Flavia Schiavi also confirmed his death to several media.